A letter writer recently opined in the local newspaper that the scheduled reconstruction of I-64 (Highway 40) would benefit Clayton and Chesterfield, at the expense of Downtown St. Louis. “What company would want to relocate to St. Louis” — the writer exclaims — “when the roads here are in constant gridlock because of the Highway 40 shutdown?”
While I share the author’s concern about the effects of a couple of years of highway construction, I am more sanguine than he is about the nature of that impact. Rather than “Clayton and Chesterfield” as the cities that most profit from the construction, I expect the City will be the short- and long-term beneficiary of the expanded highway.
Here’s why: I-64 has always been an easy way to leave and enter Downtown, without actually spending much time in the rest of the City. Removing some portion of Highway 40 for awhile will put more people onto City streets and highways, and into new City neighborhoods. While they’re there, I expect them to discover new and interesting places to eat, shop, and be entertained. And I expect some people will choose to move into these neighborhoods to be closer to their jobs here.
And, as for the residential neighborhoods along I-64, safer and better-looking over-passes and interchanges can only make locations around those exits more desirable in the long-term.
I did not choose the particular plan that MoDOT has selected. Had I, without any specialized data, been asked to select a plan, I would probably have opted for one that left some lanes along I-64 passable throughout the construction. But, I also do not believe that carefully planned detours around stretches of the highway must be an inconvenience that will derail the City’s renaissance.